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GIVING BACK: Day of Service gives HWS students opportunity to strengthen community

For the last twenty years, Hobart and William Smith Colleges has helped the greater city of Geneva as well as Ontario and Wayne counties through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning’s Day of Service, an opportunity for the Colleges to give back to the greater Geneva community through service-oriented commitments.

With the Class of 2023 undergoing its class orientation session, 547 students including first-years and orientation mentors alike served the local community during the annual first-year Day of Service, which has celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.

First-year students from across the nation participated in service-based tasks at 18 project sites throughout Geneva, Lyons and Newark.

With more than 200 students, the largest concentration of students at any site were held at the Bristol Field House on campus, packaging 30,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief non-profit organization.

Student volunteers would funnel the proper proportions of rice, soy and vitamin packets and weigh them before sealing and shipping, similarly to a series of assembly lines.

Geneva City Council Ward 6 Democratic candidate Juanita Aikens hosted her unification day celebration at Gulvin Park in Geneva with aid from a group of students.

“We are divided into six wards, but we are one city,” Aikens said.

Aikens sincerely thanked all the students involved for their support in prepping the lunches, snacks and entertainment for this community-building event while the softball diamond and bases were manned by residents.

On Exchange Street, a group of students also passed out back-to-school supplies and stuffed backpacks in collaboration with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

President of Finger Lakes Community College Robert K. Nye was present at the event and handing-out school supplies to children, also sharing that most visitors were elementary versus middle or high school students.

In total, Nye has previously attended three school supply drives and expressed that this was “one of the better turnouts” that he has seen firsthand, despite brief sprinkling showers and ominous clouds looming overhead on Saturday morning. 

Some students spread woodchips along a forest trail behind Ridgewood and McDonough parks under the guidance and supervision of Geneva High School Trailblazers Club Advisor Jake Herendeen.

In addition to celebrating the twentieth anniversary, this Day of Service is a special moment for lead coordinator Amy Jackson Sellers, since it was her first time organizing this program.

“I was so thrilled to be able to help organize the 2019 First Years’ Day of Service,” Sellers said.

“It was a privilege to work with our committed community partners and our equally committed HWS orientation team and first-year students. When HWS talks about preparing students to lead lives of consequence, I believe that starts with a commitment to the community that we live in, and that’s why it is so important that we start each student’s college career with time set aside to give back to the community that will be their home for the next four years,” she continued.

CCESL Director Kathleen Flowers also shared similar sentiments about this important date for the Colleges and its service-oriented mission to serve the greater community.

“The first-year Day of Service celebrated our 20th year. We are grateful to our Geneva and extended partners for hosting our students as they engage with and learn from contributing to the community. This weekend continues to set an important tone as our first-year students integrate into their new community,” Flowers concluded.


– Reporting & Photos by Gabriel Pietrorazio

An undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pietrorazio has written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut and Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York. He’s currently an intern reporter for FL1 News, and can be reached at [email protected].